Category: Religious Principles

After Noah, his family, and the animals exited the ark, God gave a new command: put to death anyone who murders another person. Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” The severest of penalties is to follow murder, and God Himself gives the reason for it.

God specified that murder was to be punished by death because of the nature of man. Man is created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27). As murder destroys an image-bearer, it is a direct affront to God Himself. Humans are unique among God’s creations—none of the animals are created in God’s likeness—and murder is a unique crime.

Another, secondary reason for the mandate is quite practical. The immediate context includes another command given to Noah and his three sons: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Murder, of course, would work against humanity’s being fruitful and multiplying. The death penalty for murder thus served as a deterrent to anyone who sought to thwart God’s plan to replenish the earth. This was especially important when Noah’s family first departed from the ark, at which point only eight people were alive.

Before the Flood, Cain had murdered Abel, and, although Cain was judged by God, he was not put to death (Genesis 4). Lamech, a descendant of Cain, also murdered someone (Genesis 4:23-24). By the time of God’s judgment in Genesis 6, it appears that crime was rampant, including the crime of murder. After the Flood, a new standard was raised as part of the recreated earth: God would no longer tolerate murder. Later, murder was condemned in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). The punishment for premeditated murder was death (Numbers 35:30-34).

In the New Testament, Jesus provided a wider application of the Old Testament command against murder. He taught, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22). Murder is wrong, and the attitude behind the action is just as wrong. God sees the heart and its intentions (1 Samuel 16:7).

Murder is consistently listed as a sin throughout the New Testament (e.g., Revelation 22:15). Man still bears the image of God, and God’s view of murder has remained the same.

It is often claimed that “God instituted the Sabbath in Eden” because of the  connection between the Sabbath and creation in Exodus  20:11. Although God’s rest on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3)  did foreshadow a future Sabbath law, there is no biblical record of the Sabbath  before the children of Israel left the land of Egypt. Nowhere in Scripture is  there any hint that Sabbath-keeping was practiced from Adam to Moses.

The Word of God makes it quite clear that Sabbath observance was a special sign  between God and Israel: “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating  it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between  me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the  earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested” (Exodus  31:16–17).

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses restates the Ten Commandments to  the next generation of Israelites. Here, after commanding Sabbath observance in  verses 12–14, Moses gives the reason the Sabbath was given to the nation Israel:  “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you  out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your  God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy  5:15).

God’s intent for giving the Sabbath to Israel was not that  they would remember creation, but that they would remember their Egyptian  slavery and the Lord’s deliverance. Note the requirements for Sabbath-keeping: A  person placed under that Sabbath law could not leave his home on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:29), he could not  build a fire (Exodus  35:3), and he could not cause anyone else to work (Deuteronomy 5:14). A  person breaking the Sabbath law was to be put to death (Exodus 31:15; Numbers  15:32–35).

An examination of New Testament passages shows us four  important points: 1) Whenever Christ appears in His resurrected form and the day  is mentioned, it is always the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1, 9, 10; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1, 13, 15; John 20:1926). 2) The only time the  Sabbath is mentioned from Acts through Revelation it is for evangelistic  purposes to the Jews and the setting is usually in a synagogue (Acts chapters  13–18). Paul wrote, “to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews” (1  Corinthians 9:20). Paul did not go to the synagogue to fellowship with and  edify the saints, but to convict and save the lost. 3) Once Paul states “from  now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6),  the Sabbath is never again mentioned. And 4) instead of suggesting adherence to  the Sabbath day, the remainder of the New Testament implies the opposite  (including the one exception to point 3 above, found in Colossians  2:16).

Looking more closely at point 4 above will reveal that there  is no obligation for the New Testament believer to keep the Sabbath, and will  also show that the idea of a Sunday “Christian Sabbath” is also unscriptural. As  discussed above, there is one time the Sabbath is mentioned after Paul began to  focus on the Gentiles, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or  drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a  Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality,  however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16–17). The Jewish Sabbath was abolished at  the cross where Christ “canceled the written code, with its regulations” (Colossians  2:14).

This idea is repeated more than once in the New Testament:  “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every  day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards  one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans  14:5–6a). “But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is  it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish  to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months  and seasons and years” (Galatians  4:9–10).

But some claim that a mandate by Constantine in A.D. 321  “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. On what day did the early church  meet for worship? Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by  believers for fellowship or worship. However, there are clear passages that  mention the first day of the week. For instance, Acts 20:7 states that “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” In  1  Corinthians 16:2 Paul urges the Corinthian believers “on the first day of  every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his  income.” Since Paul designates this offering as “service” in 2 Corinthians 9:12,  this collection must have been linked with the Sunday worship service of the  Christian assembly. Historically Sunday, not Saturday, was the normal meeting  day for Christians in the church, and its practice dates back to the first  century.

The Sabbath was given to Israel, not the church. The Sabbath is  still Saturday, not Sunday, and has never been changed. But the Sabbath is part  of the Old Testament Law, and Christians are free from the bondage of the Law  (Galatians  4:1-26; Romans  6:14). Sabbath keeping is not required of the Christian—be it Saturday or  Sunday. The first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10)  celebrates the New Creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head. We are not  obligated to follow the Mosaic Sabbath—resting, but are now free to follow the  risen Christ—serving. The Apostle Paul said that each individual Christian  should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, “One man considers one day more  sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be  fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans  14:5). We are to worship God every day, not just on Saturday or  Sunday.

There are about 30 biblical references to vows, most of which are from the Old  Testament. The books of Leviticus and Numbers have several references to vows in  relation to offerings and sacrifices. There were dire consequences for the  Israelites who made and broke vows, especially vows to God.

The story  of Jephthah illustrates the foolishness of making vows without understanding the  consequences. Before leading the Israelites into battle against the Ammonites,  Jephthah—described as a mighty man of valor—made a rash vow that he would give  to the Lord whoever first came out of doors to meet him if he returned home as  the victor. When the Lord granted him victory, the one who came out to meet him  was his daughter. Jephthah remembered his vow and offered her to the Lord (Judges 11:29-40).  Whether or not Jephthah should have kept this vow is dealt with in another  article. What this account shows us is the foolishness of rash vows.

Perhaps this is why Jesus gave a new commandment concerning vows. “Again, you  have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but  keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all:  either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his  footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not  swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let  your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No ,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the  evil one” (Matthew  5:33-37).

The principle here is clear for Christians: do not make  vows, either to the Lord or to one another. First, we are unable to know for  sure whether we will be able to keep vows. The fact that we are prone to the  errors in judgment which are part of our fallen nature means that we may make  vows foolishly or out of immaturity. Further, we don’t know what the future will  bring—only God does. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow (James 4:14), so to make a vow that we will do or not do  something is foolish. God is the one in control, not us, and He “works all  things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His  purpose” (Romans  8:28). Knowing this, we can see that it is unnecessary to make vows and that  it indicates a lack of trust in Him. Finally, Jesus commands that our word be  sufficient without making vows. When we say “yes” or “no,” that’s exactly what  we should mean. Adding vows or oaths to our words opens us up to the influence  of Satan whose desire is to trap us and compromise our Christian  testimony.

If we have made a vow foolishly and realized we cannot or  should not keep it, we should confess it to God, knowing that He is “faithful  and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” A  broken vow, while serious, is not an unforgivable matter if taken to the Lord in  true confession. God will not hold us to vows made imprudently, but He expects  us to obey Jesus and refrain from making vows in the future.

The key to understanding this commandment is in the definition of the word  “covet.” Two different Hebrew words are used in the passages condemning coveting  (Exodus  20:17; Deuteronomy  5:21), and both mean “to lust after or to long for with great desire.” Since  the commandments are given as “you shall not’s,” the desire in this case is for  something that is not the property of the desirer and not rightfully his to long  after. In this commandment, the Israelites are told not to lust after their  neighbor’s possessions—his house, land, ox or donkey, or the people in his  life—his wife or servants, both male and female. The Israelites were not to  desire, long for, or set their hearts on anything that belonged to anyone else. Whereas several of the commandments prohibit certain actions, such as  murder and theft, this is one of the commandments that address the inner person,  his heart and mind. As James 1:15 tells us, the inner person is where sin originates, and in this case,  covetousness is the forerunner of all manner of sin, among them theft, burglary,  and embezzlement. At its root, coveting is the result of envy, a sin which, once  it takes root in the heart, leads to worse sins. Jesus reiterated this very  thought in the Sermon on the Mount when He said that lust in the heart is every  bit as sinful as committing adultery (Matthew  5:28). Envy goes beyond casting a longing glance at the neighbor’s new car.  Once dwelled upon, envy of the neighbor’s possessions can turn to feelings of  resentment and hatred for the neighbor himself. That can turn into resentment  against God and questioning Him: “Why can’t I have what he has, Lord? Don’t you  love me enough to give me what I want?” God’s reasons for condemning  covetousness are good ones. At its very core, envy is love of self. Envious,  selfish citizens are unhappy and discontented citizens. A society built of such  people is a weak one because envious malcontents, as stated before, will be more  likely to commit crimes against one another, further weakening the societal  structure. Furthermore, the New Testament identifies covetousness as a form of  idolatry, a sin which God detests (Colossians  3:5). In the end, envy and covetousness are Satan’s tools to distract us  from pursuing the only thing that will ever make us happy and content—God  Himself. God’s Word tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and  that we should be content with the basic necessities of life (1 Timothy 6:6-8),  because true happiness is not attained by things, but by a personal relationship  with God through Jesus Christ. By this alone do we gain that which is worthy,  true, solid, satisfying, and durable—the unsearchable riches of God’s grace.

Part of the Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue, this 9th commandment  forbids the Israelites from bearing false witness or giving false testimony  against one another (Exodus  20:16; Deuteronomy  5:20). To bear false witness against others is to lie about them, especially  for personal gain. The Hebrew word translated “neighbor” in this commandment can  mean an associate, a brother, companion, fellow, friend, husband, lover, or  neighbor. In other words, the Israelites were commanded to be truthful in all  things, but especially when speaking about another person. The people were not  to lie publicly, as in a court of law by laying at another’s feet any false  charge that could injure him, nor were they to lie privately by whispering,  talebearing, backbiting, slandering, or destroying his character by innuendos,  sly insinuations, and evil suggestions.

The reasons for God’s  prohibiting lying and testifying falsely against one’s neighbor are three-fold.  First, God’s people are to reflect God’s character. Jehovah is a truthful God  who does not and cannot lie. Numbers  23:19 tells us, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man,  that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise  and not fulfill?” The people who were called by God’s name and who represented  Him in the heathen world were expected to accurately reflect His character.  Lying to or about one another brought reproach upon His holy name, and this He  would not tolerate. Second, bearing false witness against another was  destructive to the individual who was the victim of the lie, and he suffered by  it in his character, credibility and reputation, as well as in his trade and  business. Leviticus  19:18 makes it clear that the Israelites were to love their neighbors as  themselves, a command reiterated by both Jesus and Paul (Matthew 22:39; Romans 13:9). Loving our neighbors precludes lying about  them.

Third, false witness was seen as so destructive to society that  courts of law, both in the days of the Israelites and today, could function only  if the witnesses who were called to testify could be trusted to tell the truth.  Without a trustworthy judicial system, based on eyewitness testimony from  reliable, truthful witnesses, societies are at risk of the breakdown of law and  order. When this happens, chaos ensues and the innocent suffer.

As noted  before, the New Testament is equally condemning of false witness. Colossians 3:9-10 explains the reason for the continued prohibition against lying. Christians are  new creations in Christ (2  Corinthians 5:17) and as such, we reflect His nature. We have been released  from our “old self” with its evil practices such as lying and bearing false  witness. As the Israelites were to reflect the character of Jehovah, Christians  are to reflect to the world the character of Christ that identifies us as His  own.

“You shall not steal” (Exodus  20:15) is one of the Ten Commandments people can readily recall, even though  it is number eight in the Decalogue. And while there may be those who attempt to  undermine the authority of the Ten Commandments by suggesting it is part of the  Old Covenant, our Lord Jesus, speaking to the rich young ruler, quoted five of  them, including this one (Matthew  19:18). The Ten Commandments are part of the moral law of God and, unlike  the ceremonial and sacrificial laws of the Old Testament which were given to  Israel, they apply to all men in all ages.

Stealing is defined as  “taking another person’s property without his or her permission.” However, there  are many other forms of theft. For example, taking longer over our lunch breaks  at work or arriving late and leaving early are actually forms of stealing from  our employers, stealing time they have paid for. Taking advantage of employers  in that way indicates a lack of love for others. The apostle Paul, when  discussing God’s commandments, sums up the entire law in the same way as our  Lord Jesus did, with “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31; Romans  13:9). And, again like Jesus, he states that this is the fulfilment of the  “Law” (Matthew  22:39-40). So, we know from such instructions that “Do not steal,” as with  all of the Ten Commandments, is about “loving one another” (John 13:34-35).

Victims of theft know the horrible feeling it produces. The very act of someone  taking what may have been an especially precious gift from a loved one really  pierces our hearts and makes us feel vulnerable and unsafe. Theft has a  tremendous impact not only on individuals, but on society as a whole. Theft  disturbs societal stability and the results are feelings of fear and insecurity  and a desire for revenge. One has only to look at some third world countries  where laws against stealing are ignored to see how detrimental it is to the  population. God’s laws are not only moral and spiritual; they are infinitely  practical as well.

Christians have received tremendous physical and  spiritual gifts from God, and we should desire to give back to Him all that we  have. When we withhold the things that are rightly His—our time and talents, our  possessions and our finances, indeed our very lives—we are in effect stealing  from Him. The prophet Malachi put it this way when addressing the Israelites:  “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ ‘In  tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because  you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be  food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will  not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you  will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi  3:8-10). One day we will be judged by God and expected to give an account of  what we did with the gifts God has so generously bestowed on us (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10Hebrews 4:13).

Before we can answer this question, we need to be clear on the definition of  adultery. The dictionary defines “adultery” as “voluntary sexual intercourse  between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.” The Bible  would concur with this definition. In Leviticus  18:20, God told Moses, “Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s  wife and defile yourself with her,” and in Deuteronomy 22:22, we find a similar definition: “If a  man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her  and the woman must die.” It is clear from these definitions that adultery refers  to a consensual sexual union. What is not explicitly clear is whether or not  both partners in this illicit sexual union are married. The biblical commands  prohibit a man from taking another man’s wife, but do not indicate whether or  not the man is also married. Be that as it may, it is safe to say that if a  person who is married willingly seeks a sexual encounter with another person,  whether or not that person is also married, both people are guilty of committing  adultery.

God’s reasons for instituting His commandment against adultery  are two-fold. First, God established the institution of marriage as being  between one man and one woman (Genesis  2:24; reiterated by Jesus in Matthew  19:5 and parallel passages). God created marriage to be the building block  of His creation and of society. Even after the fall (Genesis 3), marriage is  still a sacred union and the foundation for society. In marriage, the full  expression of the image of God is made manifest as the man and the woman  complement and complete each other. The Bible also teaches us that marriage is  the vehicle through which God designed the procreation of the human race and the  preservation of godly offspring (Genesis  1:28, 9:1; Malachi 2:15). With such a  premium placed on marriage, it’s no wonder God would seek to protect this union  from defilement (Hebrews  13:4), and thus prohibit adultery, which is the violation of the sacred  marriage union.

The second reason for the commandment is found in Leviticus  18:1-5. As God’s chosen people, the Israelites were to reflect God’s  character in the Promised Land. God commanded His people to be holy for He is  holy (Leviticus  11:44), and part of holy living is sexual purity. God did not want His  people emulating the behavior of the Egyptians from whom He delivered them, nor  did God want His people copying the behavior of the people into whose land He  was bringing them. The implication was that adultery (and other sexual sins) was  commonplace in the lands where the Israelites had been and were going  to.

So now we know what adultery is and why God instituted this command.  Finally, we need to learn what God meant by the command itself. As with all of  the Ten Commandments, there are things we need to avoid doing (the negative part  of the command) and things we need to be doing (the positive part of the  command). The negative part of the command is self-explanatory: Do not commit  adultery. However, there is more to this command than the simple avoidance of  extramarital relationships. One can make the argument that wrapped up in this  prohibition are all sorts of sexual sin (e.g., incest, fornication,  homosexuality, etc.), and that argument can be made on the basis of chapters  such as Leviticus 18. Also important is avoiding things that would lead or tempt  one to consider adultery, such as the unnecessary withholding of conjugal rights  (1  Corinthians 7:1-5). Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, made further  clarification of this command (Matthew  5:27-30) by including all kinds of lustful thoughts. Fantasizing about  having sexual relations with someone is the same, in God’s eyes, as actually  committing adultery. Therefore, we must avoid all things that would create  within us lustful thoughts (e.g., suggestive songs, sensuous movies,  pornography, etc.). We should also avoid immodest clothing or anything that  might cause a brother or sister in the Lord to stumble in this area (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3).

The  positive part of the command would entail doing the opposite of what the command  prohibits: chastity in body, mind, words and action; keeping watch over what we  take in with our eyes and the other senses; an attitude of temperance and  self-control (i.e., moderation); being discerning over the company we keep;  dressing modestly; and fulfilling our marriage vows in regards to sexual  relations and cohabitation. Regarding sexual sin, the Apostle Paul said, “Flee  from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,  but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).  When it comes to sexual sin, the best course of action is to remove ourselves  from temptation and avoid such situations altogether.

Adultery is the  complete corruption of God’s good creation of marriage. Through the sin of  adultery, Satan tempts us to seek sexual fulfillment in avenues other than the  one God has ordained—within the bounds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.  Adultery rips at the fabric of society because it tears apart marriages and  families which are the building blocks of society. God’s law in general, and the  7th commandment in particular, is held up as the standard for Christian  behavior.

Simply stated, the sixth of the Ten Commandments forbids the unjustified taking  of a human life. However, the commandment itself has a couple of interesting  elements that bear mentioning. First and foremost, different Bible translations  give the appearance of different meanings, and there is potential for  misunderstanding the actual meaning of the verse. Second, man was never created  for the act of murdering another, and there needs to be an explanation for such  a violent and final act towards another human being. Third, because of the  translational challenge, we need to understand the difference between “murder”  and “killing.” And last but not least, how does God view murder? To God, murder  is not just physical in nature but also the condition of one’s heart towards  another.

There are two different Hebrew words (ratsakh, mut) and  two Greek words (phoneuo, apokteino) for “murder” and “killing.” One  means “to put to death,” and the other means “to murder.” The latter one is the  one prohibited by the Ten Commandments, not the former. In fact, ratsakh has a broader definition than the English word “murder.” Ratsakh also  covers deaths due to carelessness or neglect but is never used when describing  killing during wartime. That is why most modern translations render the sixth  commandment “You shall not murder” rather than “You shall not kill.” However, a  very large issue can arise depending on which translation one studies. The  ever-popular King James Version renders the verse as “Thou shalt not kill,”  therefore opening the door to misinterpreting the verse altogether. If the  intended meaning of “Thou shalt not kill” was just that—no killing—it would  render all of the God-endorsed bloodletting done by the nation of Israel a  violation of God’s own commandment (Deuteronomy 20). But God does not break His  own commandments, so, clearly, the verse does not call for a complete moratorium  on the taking of another human life.

Why does man murder? We know that  we were created in God’s image (Genesis  1:27) and we were made to live in harmony with God and with our fellow man.  This harmony became impossible once sin entered into the picture (Genesis 3).  With sin came the propensity for acting violently against one another. Anger,  jealousy, pride and hatred can fuel man’s evil bent towards life-ending  aggression. The first recorded act of murder was when Cain killed his brother  Abel (Genesis  4:8). From that moment on, taking the life of another has been commonplace  and, in some circles of society, acceptable. However, to God every life is  important, and since God knew that man was sinful and evil and had become  “lawless,” He enacted guidelines that would seek to modify man’s behavior (1 John 3:4).

So, is  there a difference between murder and killing? First, it is important to note  that not all killing is wrong. For instance, the apostle Paul talks about the  right of the state to take the lives of evildoers (Romans  13:1-7). This relates to what is commonly referred to as capital punishment.  Most countries have consequences for murder. In some cases this requires the  life of the perpetrator and a suitable means of putting one to death is chosen  and administered (Matthew  5:21; Exodus  21:14). Another instance of acceptable “killing” is that which is done  during times of war and at the command of superiors. There were quite a few  instances in Scripture where God endorsed and allowed the taking of other lives  (1 Samuel 11; Judges 6–7). And finally, although far from acceptable,  manslaughter is yet another form of killing someone. This unintentional act  apparently happened so often in biblical times that cities of refuge were  designated for the manslayer to seek refuge in (Exodus  21:13; Joshua 20). Again, it was never God’s intent to have to use such a  drastic measure as taking one’s life to rectify a situation. So, God does make  exceptions for the taking of another’s life as long as it lines up with His  will. However, premeditated murder of an individual is never God’s will.

What is murder in God’s eyes? From the human perspective, murder is the  physical act of taking another’s life. However, we also must consider that God  defines murder as any thought or feeling of deep-seated hatred or malice  against another person. In other words, it is more than just a physical act  that constitutes murder to God, who tells us that “everyone who hates his  brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in  him” (1 John 3:15  ESV). When we harbor hatred in our hearts for another, we have committed the  sin of murder in God’s eyes. The disdain towards another person never has to be  demonstrated outwardly because God looks upon the heart for the truth (1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 15:19). As  Christians and as human beings, we know that unjustified killing is wrong. God’s  Word is very clear on this point: “You shall not murder.” And what God says we  must obey, or we face the consequences on judgment day.

God exhorts us to honor  father and mother. He values honoring parents enough to include it in the Ten  Commandments (Exodus  20:12) and again in the New Testament: “Children, obey your parents in the  Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first  commandment with a promise, so that it may be well with you, and that you may  live long on the earth” (Ephesians  6:1-3). Honoring parents is the only command in Scripture that promises long  life as a reward. Those who honor their parents are blessed (Jeremiah 35:18-19). In  contrast, those with a “depraved mind” and those who exhibit ungodliness in the  last days are characterized by disobedience to parents (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy  3:2).

Solomon, the wisest man, urged children to respect their  parents (Proverbs  1:8; 13:1; 30:17). Although we may  no longer be directly under their authority, we cannot outgrow God’s command to  honor our parents. Even Jesus, God the Son, submitted Himself to both His  earthly parents (Luke 2:51) and  His heavenly Father (Matthew  26:39). Following Christ’s example, we should treat our parents the way we  would reverentially approach our heavenly Father (Hebrews  12:9; Malachi  1:6).

Obviously, we are commanded to honor our parents, but how?  Honor them with both actions and attitudes (Mark 7:6).  Honor their unspoken as well as spoken wishes. “A wise son heeds his father’s  instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1). In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus  reminded the Pharisees of the command of God to honor their father and mother.  They were obeying the letter of the law, but they had added their own traditions  that essentially overruled it. While they honored their parents in word, their  actions proved their real motive. Honor is more than lip service. The word  “honor” in this passage is a verb and, as such, demands a right action.

We should seek to honor our parents in much the same way that we strive to  bring glory to God—in our thoughts, words, and actions. For a young child,  obeying parents goes hand in hand with honoring them. That includes listening,  heeding, and submitting to their authority. After children mature, the obedience  that they learned as children will serve them well in honoring other authorities  such as government, police, and employers.

While we are required to  honor parents, that doesn’t include imitating ungodly ones (Ezekiel 20:18-19). If a  parent ever instructs a child to do something that clearly contradicts God’s  commands, that child must obey God rather than his/her parents (Acts 5:29).

Honor begets honor. God will not  honor those who will not obey His command to honor their parents. If we desire  to please God and be blessed, we should honor our parents. Honoring is not easy,  is not always fun, and certainly is not possible in our own strength. But honor  is a certain path to our purpose in life—glorifying God. “Children, obey your  parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians  3:20).

Although many people believe taking the Lord’s name in vain refers to using the  Lord’s name as a swear word, there is much more involved with a vain use of  God’s name. To understand the severity of taking the Lord’s name in vain, we  must first see the Lord’s name from His perspective as outlined in Scripture.  The God of Israel was known by many names and  titles, but the concept embodied in God’s name plays an important and unique  role in the Bible. God’s nature and attributes, the totality of His being, and  especially His glory are reflected in His name (Psalm 8:1). Psalm 111:9 tells us His  name is “holy and awesome,” and the Lord’s  prayer begins by addressing God with the phrase “hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9), an indication  that a reverence for God and His name should be foremost in our prayers. Too  often we barge into God’s presence with presumptuous “to-do lists” for Him,  without being mindful of His holiness, His awesomeness, and the vast chasm that  separates our nature from His. That we are even allowed to come before His  throne is due only to His gracious, merciful love for His own (Hebrews 4:16). We must  never take that grace for granted.

Because of the greatness of the name  of God, any use of God’s name that brings dishonor on Him or on His character is  taking His name in vain. The third of the Ten  Commandments forbids taking or using the Lord’s name in an irreverent manner  because that would indicate a lack of respect for God Himself. A person who  misuses God’s name will not be held “guiltless” by the Lord (Exodus 20:7). In the Old Testament, bringing dishonor on  God’s name was done by failing to perform an oath or vow taken in His name (Leviticus 19:12). The  man who used God’s name to legitimize his oath, and then broke his promise,  would indicate his lack of reverence for God as well as a lack of fear of His  holy retribution. It was essentially the same as denying God’s existence. For  believers, however, there is no need to use God’s name to legitimize an oath as we are not to take oaths in the first place, letting  our “yes be yes” and our “no be no” (Matthew  5:33-37).

There is a larger sense in which people today take the  Lord’s name in vain. Those who name the name of Christ, who pray in His name,  and who take His name as part of their identity, but who deliberately and  continually disobey His commands, are taking His name in vain. Jesus Christ has  been given the name above all names, at which every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9-10),  and when we take the name “Christian” upon ourselves, we must do so with an  understanding of all that signifies. If we profess to be Christians, but act,  think, and speak in a worldly or profane manner, we take His name in vain. When  we misrepresent Christ, either intentionally or through ignorance of the  Christian faith as proclaimed in Scripture, we take the Lord’s name in vain.   When we say we love Him, but do not do what He commands (Luke 6:46), we take His name in vain and are in danger of  hearing Him say to us, “I never knew you. Away from me” in the day of judgment  (Matthew  7:21-23).

The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. The name of  the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity.  We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself. To do  any less is to take His name in vain.